Friday, January 13, 2006

Ha, ha! It finally caught up with you!

Yesterday morning on my ride to work I saw Justice done. Cause and effect with the immediate feedback of effect to someone being the cause. The incident reinforced what I already knew about the drivers we are dealing with out there. More importantly, it made me pause and reflect on my own riding habits and inclinations.

Our reprieve from the rain is over. My wonderful ride in the temporarily dry ( relatively speaking ) conditions carried my good mood all through the evening. When I went to bed the rain was still holding off. During the night I got up to ..... well never mind..... and I heard the rain beating on the bathroom fan's roof vent. It's baaaaack.

Because of the rain and spots of standing water I was riding at a rather sedate speed. Traffic was the usual moderate to heavy for this time of morning. The distance between my bike and the car ahead of me was about 4 seconds. Passing on the left and going about 5 miles an hour faster than me was an unmarked vehicle from the County Sheriff's Office. I was an LEO in an earlier part of life so maybe I'm more sensitive to what they look like but this one didn't seem to be overly covert. It was the standard Ford Crown Vic car with the little antenna in the back. I could see the pop-up lights on the rear deck as the car passed.

Right behind the cop car was a little black Nissan Sentra. The driver, a young female, was tailgating the cop car in the heavy rain. I could see the driver moving left and right trying to see if there was a clear spot ahead to do the slingshot move. This kept up for a while since there weren't any available traffic gaps. A gap finally opened and, yes, you guessed it, the Nissan driver did the slingshot into the spot in front of the cop car. You know what comes next, don't you?

The cop car lit up like a psycho strobing Christmas tree and the driver of the Nissan was surely going to get a verbal and written lesson on safe following distances and how the basic rule affects speed limits. I'm sorry to say that my character flaws enabled me to laugh my helmet off the rest of the ride to work.

There was certainly humor but there was also a serious reminder. I've seen it all from overly aggressive drivers taking totally dangerous chances, to people reading while driving, to people eating cereal from a bowl, you name it. There's one little gal in a black SUV with a personalized plate with what I assume is her name on it. She blows by me doing about 85 all the while putting on her makeup and looking into a little mirror on her sun visor. Folks seem to be either oblivious or stupid. However, I don't want to turn this into another "bashing" piece. Look at it from my perspective on a bike.

The reality is that we are sharing the road with folks who are impaired in many ways. It's either chemical, emotional, physical, or in skills. I'm not saying all of it comes from a lack of character or morals on the part of drivers. Some does but some is just physical aging, or whatever. Either way, it affects us and we need to deal with it. I've heard some riders say that to be safe you need to assume that every driver out there is out to kill us and act accordingly. To me this seems too much like being a victim, the helpless rider at the mercy of the four wheeled hordes. It conjures up images of a mouse crouching and hiding while hawks circle overhead. I don't like that mental picture at all.

Sure, there's real dangers. In my case, I prefer to feel and think like I am in control of my own destiny. I keep my skills sharp through practice. I develop and use mental strategies like SIPDE, the mental skill taught in motorcycle safety classes. I make myself visible to other traffic by my positioning and what I wear. The danger is still the same but my enjoyment is higher because I feel in control. I face these dangers repeatedly in my commute but they will not rob me of my joy. I have seen the enemy and I am ready.

The other thing I thought of was my own habits. Why do we ride the bike? It's supposed to be relaxing. It's a higher consciousness thing. We are above the people frantically commuting in their little rocket ships. The experience is probably slightly different for each of us but I like to feel we are all on the same plane. You know the feeling. Other people don't understand. Like Mr. Honda said "If I have to tell you about it, you won't understand it. If you have already experienced it I don't have to tell you". I'm sorry, Mr. Honda, wherever you are, if I have misquoted you. Honestly, I am trying to be true to the intent of your wise words.

An interesting thing happens, at least to me, when commuting on the same routes everyday. I find this especially true right now when darkness and rain deny me my soothing twisties. I came to a sudden epithany the other day. "My god, I'm on the bike but I'm DRIVING"! True enough, I was back in that zone. Each car ahead of me had become a target. I was on the hunt, my prey was the car ahead. The "kill" was getting around this car. I told myself that I was just trying to find open space to run alone but I was lying to myself. Pretty soon I caught up to the next group of cars and the "hunt" started all over again. Where was this higher consciousness?
Where was the serenity of mind from the ride?

It was a apparently a much needed wakeup call. I shall try to do better in coming days.


Gary Charpentier said...

This epiphany of yours is exactly what I experienced with the prolonged GOOD weather of my own commute.

Since the scooter has a limited sporting potential, my major challenges come when the weather turns nasty. That's when I focus most intensely and experience the ride most vividly.

This is an interesting dichotomy, no?

Ride well,

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irondad said...

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